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The Napster Factor: e-Gore
Posted by netwebly 10.23.2000

Facing polls that show him falling behind Republican George W. Bush in the race for the Presidency, Vice President Al Gore talked with Red Herring Magazine.

In comments that are sure to receive wide play in the national media, the Vice President compared the openness of Napster and other new file sharing services to the fundamental strengths of the American political system with an analogy.

"Our democracy, our constitutional framework," Gore told the magazine, "is really a kind of software for harnessing the creativity and political imagination of the American people. The American democratic system was an early political version of Napster."

Continuing, Gore made an observation that could easily be applied to the Napster case, and probably will be, "Dictatorships, Communist countries, monarchies in the past all eventually collapsed because of their inefficiency in moving information and creativity to the places where it was needed."

In July, a US District Court issued an injunction that ordered Napster to shut down its servers. The Redwood City based company won a last-minute reprieve that allowed the service to stay online. The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the case in early October.

In the interview, which appears in the September 28th issue of the magazine and on the Red Herring web site, the Vice President again demonstrated that he is a man who knows what he is talking about, at least when it comes to Information technology.

This in contrast to his opponent, who may be best known in the industry for generic positions "I intend to use the Internet to empower citizens, to allow them obtain customized information from Washington when they need it " and remarks like the unsettling "Will the Highways on the Internet become more few?"

Although the Veep stopped far short of a direct endorsement of Napster, his comments certainly did nothing to hurt the file sharing company's cause. If anything, they probably added fuel to what has been a fiery hot topic for months since Napster broke into the public eye.

The Vice President also reflected on the future of politics on the Internet, cautioning that even in a best case scenario, a system which allowed US citizens to vote on national referenda directly over the Net might not be such a good thing. "...therefore if you had a completely wired nation, you still would not want pure democracy. You would still want representatives to be chosen who have the time to reflect and make considered judgments."

Last month, the White House filed a brief on behalf of the recording industry in the Napster case, arguing that allowing file-sharing services like Napster to continue operation could cause the economy irreparable harm - almost a mirror image of the recording industry's own argument.

News of the brief caused an uproar among Napster supporters and prompted Republican Senator Orrin Hatch to send the Judge a strongly worded letter of his own, reminding the court that the opinions contained in the White House brief did not necessarily represent the views of the rest of the government.

Some observers have suggested that a Gore White House would probably side with the recording industry against Napster and the other file sharing services - a theory that gained adherents after the White House brief was made public. The fact that Tipper Gore is a close personal friend of RIAA head Hillary Rosen has also been viewed with skepticism.

Plenty of people still remember Tipper's campaign against indecent song lyrics - an unpopular personal cause that may have cost her husband the presidency last time around.





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